Oh no. We recognize this feeling. We call it HBO-fatigue. It usually sets in roughly mid-season. All of a sudden, the closer in our episode queue we get to one of their titan shows, the stronger our feeling of dread. Perhaps we should assign that same fatigue to AMC, because guess what just set in with Mad Men? We’re not sure if it’s setting in because Mad Men isn’t as good as usual – we’re not even sure if it’s actually not as good as usual. But something has switched in our brains, and we suddenly find ourselves not wanting to watch at all. But we will persevere. We refuse to be bested by AMC-fatigue. We have been rewarded in the past for pushing through (see the latest season of Boardwalk Empire). We hope we’ll be rewarded this time.
And, with this episode, we almost were. There were a few aspects of “Man With a Plan” that made us glad we slogged through it – the advancement of Bob’s character and the attendant mystery that goes along with him, and Peggy’s dressing-down of Don – but the more subliminal developments were the ones that really held our attention. For the most part, these centered on Don (Mad Men is becoming even more the Don show than it ever was before – a feat we thought was impossible). This episode was all about power. Who has it and who doesn’t.
As SCDP and CGC merge, Don’s status as the most powerful man in any room is challenged. In Ted, he finally has some competition. Someone who is just as charismatic, more suave, more gallant, and more respectable and respectful. Ted is a threat. You can almost see Don realizing that. The majority of the episode revolves around